Move of the Week: The Squat

by | Jul 1, 2015 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

We’re excited to introduce a new blog series: fitness moves! When it comes to strength training, most people are familiar with many of the basic moves, but are often unsure how to perform them correctly.
THE SQUAT: one of the most infamous training moves. It can seem very technical to do it correctly, but when performed well, it can be extremely beneficial even outside the gym. Squats target your quadriceps, glutes, hips, hamstrings, and even your core. As a compound movement, a squat is about as beneficial as it gets. Read on to find the perfect technique for your squat.
Bodyweight Squat
If you’re new to squatting, or aren’t used to squatting with weight, follow these steps for a perfect bodyweight squat. If you’re looking to add weight to your squat, skip to the next list below.
1. Start with your feet a little more than hip width apart. Your hips should be directly over your knees, and your knees should be over your ankles. Your shoes should be pointed slightly outward.
2. Keep your back flat and your core engaged. Your shoulders should also be pulled back with your chest out. This will enable a natural curve in your back, which is normal. Your back should be “flat” in the sense that it’s not curving too far forward or backward.
3. Look up (perhaps at a mirror), not down at your feet. Think of standing up straight to talk to a drill sergeant.
4. Position yourself so your weight is in your heels. This is key. At no point during the squat should your heels come up, nor should your toes. It may help to place a weight plate under your toes the first few times you try squatting.
5. Take a breath in, letting the air fill your stomach (not your chest!), and start moving down. Think about pushing your butt back, while keeping your spine neutral. Your shoulders should remain back and your chest out as you squat down.
6. Your squat should be as low as your hips will allow (this depends on flexibility). It is best to go below parallel (meaning below the point at which your thighs are parallel to the floor), but to start, it’s ok to be above parallel. Be aware of what feels best for your hips and knees.
7. Explode back up. Squeeze your glutes and keep your core engage to help come up. Your weight should be driven back up through your heels.
8. Breathe back out as you come up.

Weighted Squat Variations
If you’re starting to feel comfortable with your bodyweight squat, or you’ve been at it for a while, try adding some weight to your squat to add resistance and continue building muscle. There are many variations of weighted squats; we are including the two most common and straightforward forms to start you off!
Goblet Squat
The goblet squat is perfect for those just starting to add weight to their squat. The structure of the exercise makes it more difficult to do incorrectly, making it a great starting point. Follow these steps for an awesome goblet squat:
1. Hold a weight to your chest. If you grab a dumbbell, hold it vertically from one head, with your palms facing up. If you have a kettlebell, you should hold it by the horns.
2. Take the same foot stance: slightly wider than hip width, with your hips, knees, and feet stacked, toes pointed slightly out. Keep your core engaged.
3. Breathe in and squat down. Again, try to go below parallel, but if you don’t have the mobility, aim for parallel. Make sure your weight stays in your heels even at the lowest point of the squat. Your elbows should be near your knees.
4. As you come back up, breathe out. Your back should stay neutral and not cave towards the weight. Congratulations! You’ve completed your first goblet squat.
Back Squat
If you’re feeling confident and strong, try out the back squat. You can start with a smaller barbell to get used to the form, and then move on to the standard Olympic-sized barbell to add on more weight.
1. When the bar is racked, it should come up to about your chest, so that when you duck under the bar to put it on your shoulders, you have to bend your knees a little to then stand up and walk the bar back away from the pegs. You shouldn’t have to stand up on your toes to get the bar off.
2. Before stepping under the bar, set up your hands. Make sure they are evenly spread. Then duck under the bar and place it at the base of your neck. It should NOT be resting on any bones, but on your traps. Keep your shoulder blades squeezed together.
3. Take the same foot stance and keep your core engaged.
4. Breathe in and squat down. Keep your back neutral and do not round it with the weight.
5. As you come back up, breathe out. Again, keep your back neutral and do not hinge your hips. Power back up through your glutes.
Squatting may seem intimidating to start, but can be very simple once you understand the set-up and form. Make sure to breathe through and keep your glutes and core engaged. Soon enough, you’ll be a pro!